News

Road work creates safer highway

Motorists on Highway 20 north of Oak Harbor are asked to be patient during a long construction period that will pay off in a significantly safer driving experience in the future.

By the end of the year, access from Regatta Drive to Highway 20 on the northern edge of Oak Harbor should get a lot safer as well easier.

That’s because work crews are busy putting in a 1,300-foot acceleration lane where people currently have to yield before driving onto the highway. The new lane is one of several safety projects construction crews are working on that officials hope will make Highway 20 from the city limits to Frostad Road less deadly.

“We’re going to put in a freeway-type on ramp at Regatta,” said Joe Haukap, transportation engineer for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Highway 20 is termed a high accident corridor by the Department of Transportation.

With the current project, the most common types of accidents occur at intersections when motorists run off the road.

According to information from the Washington State Patrol, troopers responded to 102 traffic accidents from the Oak Harbor city limits to Frostad Road since January of 2001.

The Department of Transportation has information until the middle of 2003. They recorded 150 collisions since 1999. Of that amount, 75 were rear-end collisions and 22 were where cars ran off the roadway and collided with a fixed object.

Another major safety change motorists will notice is a new signal installed at the intersection of Highway 20 and 16th Avenue.

Other aspects of the $3.4 million project include passing lanes on southbound Highway 20 between Frostad Road and Sleeper Road and again from Ault Field Road to Regatta Drive.

Another major improvement Haukap noted is a two-way left turn lane to be added near Narrows Street.

Construction workers are working 10 hours a day, four days a week during the project that should be completed by the end of the year. David Crisman, project engineer with the Department of Transportation, said motorists will see lane closures at night this fall as the highway is repaved.

While construction crews improve the highway, they are also creating a wetland off Hoffman Road to mitigate environmental impacts of the project.

The Department of Transportation purchased six acres of property that will provide enough space for the wetland, vegetation and appropriate buffer.

The new wetland will mitigate environmental impacts for all Highway 20 projects the Department of Transportation wants to complete in the next seven to eight years, according to Haukap.

Those projects stretch from San de Fuca to Sharp’s Corner near Anacortes.

Beginning next spring, work will begin on a project between Monkey Hill Road and Troxell Road.

Haukap said the intersections will be improved and passing lanes will be added. That project will also cost between $3 million and $4 million.

He added that the intersections of Banta Road and Northgate Drive will be combined into one intersection.

Monkey Hill Road is expected to be changed to “improve sight distance when (motorists) turn onto Highway 20,” Haukap said.

He said that the work needs to be done because there are a lot of accidents that happen in the area.

Another safety project on the island stretches from Troxell Road to Deception Pass State Park.

The former Deception Pass Grocery was purchased by the Department of Transportation last year and then demolished to make room for road alterations. That project is set to begin next spring as well.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes.com.

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